The medical bills of families are soaring, even before they get sick.
And the rise in medical costs for older Australians has made it even more of a challenge to keep up with their costs.
As of September, a typical family of four had about $400,000 in medical bills, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures.
That is up from about $300,000 just five years ago, when the Abbott Government announced the Medicare levy.
ABS data also shows that while the proportion of Australians with health insurance has increased from around 35 per cent to 37 per cent over the past five years, the proportion who are paying their own health bills has fallen from about 30 per cent in 2010 to around 25 per cent now.
While the average Australian is likely to pay about $2,000 more a year for health insurance, the ABS data shows that the gap between average health costs and the average household income has widened.
In a separate ABS survey, more than one in 10 Australian households said they had spent more than $2 million on health insurance over the last five years.
Health insurance costs The number of people who pay their own medical bills is a small proportion of the total costs for a number of reasons, including the number of hospitals, outpatient care and the amount of hospital beds available.
But it is the number that matters.
A 2013 survey of more than 3,000 Australians by the Commonwealth Bank found that people with the lowest incomes paid $11,000 a year more for medical care than those with higher incomes.
“This is a cost that goes to the most vulnerable people in our society, including our elderly, those with chronic conditions, and the poor, and is borne by everyone, regardless of income,” Dr David Binder, president of the Australian Medical Association, said.
The average cost of a person’s own health care in Australia was $1,500 in 2016.
This figure includes costs such as: drugs and devices, diagnostic tests, outpatient visits, hospital admissions and hospital care, including nursing home visits, urgent care, emergency and mental health care, and emergency department visits.
There is also a cost of living adjustment, which helps people adjust to higher costs, such as living in a rental property, paying a higher rent, paying more for groceries, buying a house or buying a car.
Another big driver of health care costs is a change in the number and composition of people covered by insurance.
Until recently, health insurance was typically provided by a few providers, with the majority of those covered covered being in regional areas.
That changed in the 1980s and 1990s when insurance providers began to shift away from the older and sicker populations.
More than half of Australians now have a health insurance policy, according the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
But as the numbers of people with medical bills increases, so too does the proportion with health coverage.
Insurance and insurance costs are growing in AustraliaThe ABS data also reveals that health care is not the only expense that rises when people have to pay for their own care.
And when people spend money on prescription drugs, prescriptions and medicines, they often get them from outside the community, rather than the doctor’s office.
One in five Australians aged under 65, or 16 per cent, said they were getting their medicines from overseas.
That rises to 18 per cent for those aged between 45 and 54 and 21 per cent of people aged between 55 and 64.
It also rises for older people, with a higher proportion of those aged 65 and over reporting having their prescription drugs imported from abroad.
“The more people have access to health insurance and insurance, and they are more likely to get their prescriptions, the more likely they are to be able to access them,” Dr Binder said.
“So we’re seeing that this is not a new trend.”
Health care costs for all AustraliansABS research shows the average annual cost of hospital admissions for all Australian adults, aged from 18 to 64, is about $1.7 million.
The average annual spending for a person aged 65 or over is about £3,400 a year, or about $8,000 per person.
This figure includes the cost for Medicare, which covers the costs of health services for people over 65.
Australia’s health system is expensiveIt is a well-known fact that health costs are rising.
So is the quality of care that patients receive.
If the Government is serious about improving health care and protecting the nation’s budget, it should not allow a national system to grow in size, Dr Binders said.
“We need to get more people into hospitals and more people in nursing homes, and we need to ensure that the quality and quality of life of Australians increases.”